Having a child is an undeniably life changing event. Both for your home and your work life.
For many women it is accompanied either with some level of anxiety or ambivalence about their career. From a purely practical perspective, it is not until the child arrives that you can really appreciate the calls upon your time: it is your new full time, 24/7, always on call job. Your paid role in the office suddenly seems less important – even if you are still very driven to succeed. Priorities change. And – although you may suddenly feel like you are just a wage slave rather than the active, engaged CareerGirl you once were.
Well – this is the perfect time to figure out the elements that would constitute your dream job.
Where as you once considered this question at a top-down level (lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc) it is now easier to break this question into the elements of working life that bring you job satisfaction. This will give you a bottom-up view of what is really important to you, now that your life has changed. There are only so many hours a day – and this will give you direction as to where to focus to make small incremental changes in critical areas of your working life. These changes will help you bridge the gap between your current situation and your dream job scenario.
To explain, I will talk you through how I put together this exercise to help me in my own work self analysis.
I broke the elements of working life that contribute to my job satisfaction into eight key areas:
1 – Working hours & flexibility
2 – Work location & flexibility
3 – Fulfilment & purpose
4 – People, culture & values
5 – Work Variety & Opportunity
6 – Skills & competencies
7 – Drive & ambition
8 – Salary & benefits
I asked myself a number of questions for each category to work out how important they are to me now. I then thought hard about where I wanted to be in the next five years:
- Did I want more children?
- What did I expect my relationship status to be?
- Did I want to live elsewhere?
- What would I do for work if I were able to do anything I wanted, money no object?
- Did I still feel the drive of specific professional ambitions?
As an aside – I first answered these questions four months ago. I should note here that my responses now are completely different because I am unexpectedly getting a divorce. Of course, not everyone will go through this – but your world can change in an instant – and considering your Plan B for independence is no bad thing!
Anyway, I now appreciate that life is short and unpredictable. My job is there to serve me – to help me pay my mortgage and me living my best life in terms of funding, challenge and purpose. Having been someone who has stayed with the same employer for nearly twenty years – and who, at times, has let my work completely rule my life – I now want more balance and have the confidence in my abilities that if I didn’t have this job, I would easily find another. It is important not to cling to your job otherwise you can easily feel trapped!
And the reality is we are all extremely capable with so much to offer employers, colleagues and clients.
So, I plotted out my current job satisfaction levels (on a scale of very high to very low) for each of these eight elements. I then considered my dream job.
It is tempting to want high levels of satisfaction in all eight areas – but, realistically, at this point in our careers and lives, some things are more important than others. For example, my ideal job would enable me to work from home but still be part of a broader community. It would give me a strong sense of purpose. It would also enable me to – at least maintain – my current wage level. Although variety and frequent training have been critical to my job satisfaction in the past, I have other priorities now.
Without focusing on what is really important, it can be overwhelming to make changes. Without clear direction, you can try to slightly improve everything without significantly improving anything!
So, I selected the four areas where I most want to improve my job satisfaction and this has now given me a direction for where to focus my efforts going forwards. It has also given me the goal of moving to a model where I can work from home.
If you are wondering what your priorities really are – and where you want to be in five years – sign up here to download the free printable worksheet here which highlights where to focus your efforts for a happier working life.
This has been a life changing exercise for me; it has swiftly given me clarity and purpose.
As CareerMoms we have precious few hours in the day to focus on our own future – use that time wisely!
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